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Activating Your Cause Marketing Campaign

Activation in sponsorship, and by extension cause marketing, means the stuff you do to promote the sponsorship.

Activation is an exceedingly broad idea. It could mean everything from jumping out of airplane with a banner attached to your feet, to advertising or earned media on radio and TV, to email, to social media like Facebook, to signage and out of home advertising.

(The old sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati, which was about a radio station, once activated a promotion by dropping live turkeys from a helicopter at Thanksgiving. The results were comically tragic. Watch the classic episode from 1978 here.)

At left is an activation of a cause campaign in front of a local Sizzler restaurant, at the intersection of two busy streets. The campaign itself… called Cops for Kids… is a tried and true fundraiser; cops from three local police departments will serve you and bus your tables during your visit to one of three local Sizzler restaurants on April 19, 2011.

The money from tips will go to the Children’s Justice Center. The Children’s Justice Center is a place where ‘children receive coordinated services during the child abuse investigative process.’

It used to be that sponsorship activation was mainly the responsibility of the sponsor. But in this age of free social media, that's no longer the case.

The Children’s Justice Center, for instance, did at least three other things to activate the sponsorship; they issued a media release and a really shaky video news release, both of which can be seen on their website. They also posted the event to their Facebook page. I presume they sent some kind of email to their list, too.

If the fundraiser generates much less than $10,000, what the Children’s Justice Center has done to activate the sponsorship is about all they can justify in doing.

I think that the Sizzler franchisee(s) could do more. In terms of the fundraiser itself, they could do some kind of matching effort. They could offer coupons for the event only. Maybe they could offer a dessert or specialty menu item with the proceeds going to the Children’s Justice Center.

Sizzler could certainly do things to activate the sponsorship beyond the sign out front. They could do in-store advertising with table tents, 'talkers,' handbills, and the like. They could offer customers some kind of bounce-back pricing whereby if you bought a meal at Sizzler within the last 15 days or so, if you came back on April 19, you’d get some special offer.

The cops, too, could activate the sponsorship by bringing their cars on April 19 and running the lights and pointing their spotlights on the sign above. They could draw on the local Fraternal Order of Police lodges for support. They could also send out notices to their compatriots in their respective city governments.

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